Farmington Schools: A time for hope, a time to heal

Harrison High parent Joe O’Connor has spent months fighting for the life of his children’s school. On Tuesday, he watched as Farmington Public Schools board members voted 6-1 to close it.

But even after that emotional decision, O’Connor was not willing to give up. After all, Harrison won’t officially close for another three years, and he believes in possibilities.

“Where there’s hope, there’s life. We’ll market the district and see what happens,” he said. “I have that hope, like the Terminator when he gets blown up, and you can see that red dot there…maybe we can regenerate.”

Others have said they’re just done with Farmington Public Schools. Some parents are talking about selling their homes, some want to transfer their kids to other schools. During public comment at the board meeting, one speaker told officials she was done giving the district any bond dollars.

Everybody gets an opinion. But there’s a lot of work to be done here, and much of it will be done by students who are paying close attention to what’s being said. Make no mistake, kids see and hear everything. And they take their cues from us.

As school board president Howard Wallach hinted Tuesday, the pain is far from over. More difficult conversations wait just down the road. It will help, he said, if people who step up to make public comments express their opinions without sarcasm and without accusations that officials haven’t done their homework. He’s right, it’s insulting to people who work very hard and spend hours listening, reading, and deliberating. Sadly, it also teaches our children they’re free to disrespect people with whom they disagree.

District residents affected by the latest shake-up have a right to express anger, frustration, and sadness. Simply put, Farmington Public Schools current financial situation sucks. It may even get worse before it gets better – but if we move in the direction of healing and rebuilding, and out of the muck of complaining and blame, it will get better. If you don’t believe me, consider the words Harrison principal James Anderson shared Wednesday, as he urged parents to carefully consider their conversations and social media posts:

“I have already started to speak with the student body at HHS. While they feel optimistic about their personal opportunities to graduate from HHS, I have shared with them that they have an even bigger task and responsibility. They have the honor of defining the final chapter in a strong legacy that has spanned close to 5 decades. With this honor they will be expected to achieve to their highest potential. In the classroom, in athletic competitions and extracurricular activities, and all other aspects of the school we want them to give their very best.”

It’s easy to forget, with all of the harsh words, criticism and conflict, that Farmington Public Schools students are giving their very best. The district turns out high achievers who get into some of the best colleges and universities in the country. Kids involved in the arts, in career and other clubs have won statewide and national honors and recognition.

Is there work to do? Always. It will be a challenge to continue to achieve while we grieve.  And I wish there were more folks like Joe O’Connor who believe in that little red dot, because it signifies more than just another Terminator sequel. The dot is all about hope, the unshakeable belief that we will all live to fight another day. And hope is exactly the energy we need to power the community conversations that will move Farmington Public Schools forward.

Joni Hubred-Golden